At least one of the teams searching for any remnants of last week's Mason-Dixon meteor has narrowed their focus to a relatively small area of Lancaster County, Pa., roughly between Rte. 272 and the Susquehanna River.
Using the York Water Co. security video and Mike Hankey's telescopic image of the falling meteor, Rob Matson, an aerospace engineer from California whose "hobby" interests include looking for asteroids and meteorites, has calculated the fall zone where he suspects any surviving fragments of the meteor ought to be. Here's his note to meteor hunter Steve Arnold:
"My best estimate at the moment is that meteorites should be found
somewhere in the region bounded by Pequea, Colemanville, Martic
Forge, Marticville, Holtwood, Bethesda (PA of course), and
Rawlinsville. The west side of the Susquehanna isn't ruled out,
but I would strongly favor the east side."
The search is now (mostly) up to local residents. Here's more from Arnold:
"Locals in the area need to look down! Odds are strongly in favor of notified locals finding pieces of the meteorite over the chances even professional meteorite hunters would have. Walking the dog, mowing the grass, walking across parking lots, walking along the sides of the roads, local are encouraged to look for smooth, dark black rocks.
"These rocks will be heavier than other rocks of their size, and should attract a strong magnet (not a weak refrigerator magnet). They will NOT be porous like lave. They should have rounded corners, often oblong, shaped like a potato. They can be any size from pea sized to basketball sized or larger. Fist sized or larger can punch a hole in the ground, but smaller ones will often dent the ground and sometimes bounce. If there is a naturally broken face, those edges can be sharp, with the interior usually a light cement looking gray color.
"Meteorites do not have any radiation, but oils on your hand could do some minor damage. Ideally, picking it up should be done with a plastic baggy or a gloved hand, but the important thing is to get them pick them up.
"Any rocks with a black smooth surface, that are attracted by a magnet should be checked out by an expert.
"Once the first specimen is found, then determining where the others are will be much easier.
"Hankey's photo revealed at least 6 fragments, and there is a possibility for hundreds of stones if there was a late break up, as often is the case.
"Meteorites belong to private property owners, so any would-be hunters must get permission to hunt and remove anything before going on to private property to search."
Anyone who finds a meteorite or a suspected meteorite is free to report it to Steve or any other meteorite hunter or collector. But Jim Reger, at the Maryland Geological Survey, has provided the following information to help guide residents who think they've got a piece of the July 6 meteor:
"The Smithsonian Institution's Division of Meteorites website at http://mineralsciences.si.edu/collections/meteorites.htm and answers a
few simple questions as a preliminary screen or test for suspected
meteorites. NASA has also produced a booklet about identifying a
meteorite. If either the Smithsonian or the NASA
"self-test" points to a possible meteorite, the ideal resolution should
come from taking the specimen to an expert.
"There is also expertise at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington. If
you have a question about meteorites, contact Linda Welzenbach at
Jim advises against sending your specimen to the Smithsonian. If all the pre-tests are positive, make an appointment and hand-carry it to Washington.